Cooktown Botanic Gardens and Gallop Botanic Reserve
Cooktown Botanic Gardens Today
Guided tours of the garden April-October every Wednesday at 10 a.m. departing from the Cooktown and Cape York Peninsula Visitor Information Centre, Natures Powerhouse.
Educational and Research Groups and other groups at other times by appointment with
Sandy Lloyd, Curator, 0437 910883.
Cooktown Botanic Gardens. Established in 1878, the Gallop Botanic Reserve encompasses 62.3 Ha (154 acres) on the edge of Cooktown and contains the Cooktown Botanic Gardens and walking trails to Finch Bay and Cherry Tree Bay.
Full species listing see bottom of page.
For more info on selected plants in the garden see http://cooktownbotanicgardens.blogspot.com.au/
OCTOBER IN THE GARDENS
This month we witnessed the flowering of one species of the strange Arum Lillies in the Aroid Garden,
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, the Cheeky Yam, Elephant foot yam or Stink lily. Stink Lily because it attracts flies for pollination. This strange plant produces a single flower which, when it dies back, will be followed by a single large lobed leaf from the underground rhizome.
Another strange plant is the carnivorous Pitcher Plant, Nepenthes sp. The modified leaves form a trap for unwary insects.
Also flowering this month is the New Guinea Ground Orchid, Spathoglottis plicata.
and the White Lace Flower or Tulip Siris, Archidendron hendersonii
In the Orchid House one of the Dancing Lady Orchids, Oncidium species.
SEPTEMBER IN THE GARDENS
The beautiful Golden Orchid is flowering through the gardens, Dendrobium discolor (now called Durabaculum discolor). This is the largest dendrobium in Australia with the longest canes. The species are either epiphytic, growing on a tree, or occasionally lithophytic, growing over a rock.
Bats Wing Coral Tree, Erythrina vespertilio, or Grey Corkwood or Wo-in-ya is a small tree with corky bark and thorns on the branches is deciduous and puts its spectacular pea-shaped scarlet to orange-red flowers directly on the stems in August-September. The common name
The Cascading Bean, Maniltoa lenticellata is an unusual small tree or large shrub found in lowland rainforests and vine forests widespread to Torres Strait and in New Guinea. The globular clusters of cream flowers happen in September-October. These fruity-scented flowers may be pollinated by marsupials or bats. The astonishing new growth is pale pink and pendulous (cascading) and is sometimes called handkerchief tree because of this. Watching the large seed pod germinate is astonishing! The new root pushes the seed up and out from the soil and then the first leaves emerge - small pink and pendulous.
The Burney Bean, Mucuna gigantea, has been forming pendulous green pea-flowers lately which are rapidly turning into dark pods with round flat seeds. The kids rub each other with these hence the name Burney Bean. They are used for ornamentation.
Grevillea banksii has produced red spider flowers for the first time in the Solander Garden.
The exotic Yellow Saraca, Saraca thaipingensis, is in full bloom with astonishing golden yellow blooms above the foliage. It is believed that Buddha was born under this sacred evergreen flowering tree. A tree with yellow flowers, borne on old wood, grown as an ornamental for floral effect. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds, the flowers are fragrant especially during the night. Long pendulous new growth emerges as soft pink leaves slowly stiffen to green. Flower heads are large, up to 45cm, and bright yellow, developing straight from the trunk.
The Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa, has just started forming its creamy flowers. The fruits which follow are the delicious Rosella Jam!
The New Guinea Ground Orchid, Spathoglottis plicata, has lots of dark pink flowers. Comes in many colours - white, pink, purple, cerise, red, yellow, ours seems to have reverted to one colour!
August in the gardens
The Silk Cotton Tree, or Red Kapok Tree. Bombax ceiba.
This beautiful tree flowers from August – September, and can reach to 60m high. We have specimens in the gardens and a large tree as you come into Cooktown near the corner of Racecourse Road and Hope Street, also down at Quarantine Bay and many other places. Its trunk bears conical spikes when young to deter attacks by animals.
The tree has palmate-shaped leaves and is deciduous (loses its leaves) in winter, then the stunning large waxy red flowers are produced in the dry season when the tree is completely leafless and when most other forms of vegetation in the community are looking rather drab and forlorn. Although each flower only lasts for one day they are visited by numerous birds seeking the nectar. Birds have been observed to get drunk on the fermenting nectar! Often planted in large gardens and parks for these large red flowers.
June in the Gardens
Hibbertia banksii, Collected by Banks & Solander in 1770,
Living specimen of one of the Banks Florilegium prints on display in Natures Powerhouse in the Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery. The Banks Florilegium exhibition contains 15 of these prints from the copper engravings made by Joseh Banks in the 1700's from Sydney Parkinson's botanical illustrations of the plants they collected on the Endeavour River in June 1770.
The amazing bugs (not beatles) are clustered under leaves. They seem to be resting or maybe socializing.
|Red flowering Bromeliad||
Blood Red Tassel Flower (Calliandra haematocephala), has these powder puff flowers all over the shrub.
Flower of Dillenia alata,
the Red Beech, fruit
May in the Gardens
The Cooktown Orchid
Gardenia Glennie River
nd the Syzygiums or Lilly pillies, Syzygium leuhmanii and Syzygium wilsonii are doing their thing! Rainforest plants in the Myrtaceae Family, the many species of Syzygium share attributes of edible berries and colourful new growth.
The Cooktown Orchid, State Emblem of Queensland. Generous donations by Jason OBrien, member for Leichhardt, and Cooktown Local News, the Bousens, have made our precious collection of Cookies possible!
The Main Lawn, with exotic fruit trees, eg Black Sapote or Chocolate Pudding Tree, Jackfruit, Mango, Brazil Cherry, Breadfruit, Lychee, Star Fruit, Five-Corner Fruit, Bael Fruit and many more, some of which are original specimens of the 1886 gardens, sent by the Queensland Society for Acclimatisation as a trial to see how they would work as a commercial crop. Some are still in existence from that planting and are identified on the label plates. When in fruit these plants are a favourite of the Cooktown kids.
The historic Solander Garden has living specimens of the 325 plants collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on board the Bark Endeavour with Captain Cook at the Endeavour River, Cooktown in 1770. They were here for longer than elsewhere in Australia, having run aground on the reef. This makes the area the basis of the European knowledge of Australian flora of the time and therefore a very important part of our heritage. The scientists on board collected specimens of plants, the artists on board painted these, and the original herbarium specimens were retained by Joseph Banks who later gave them to the British Natural History Museum. Some of these were returned to the Australian National Herbarium in Canberra, some in the Queensland Herbarium. Banks had copper engravings made of the paintings which were later printed as "Banks Florilegium" and some of these are now displayed in the Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery in Natures PowerHouse in the gardens.
This is the primary collection of our living museum. Living specimens of these plants are our heritage and our history.
Society for Growing Australian Plants garden. The local branch originally planted out this garden many years ago and come every year in June to do a working bee in the gardens and to further develop this garden. We are indeed fortunate that the SGAP Cairns and Tablelands have given of their time and effort for so long.
A “Palmetum” with both native and exotic palms.
The Society for Growing Australian Plants Garden. Created by the Cairns and Tablelands group, who come annually and spend a weekend in June every year, and have done since 1986. We are fortunate to have this assistance.
The “Enchanted Garden”, a shady damp place with Gingers, Costus, Bromelliads, ferns – we plan to make it a fairy land.
The Flower Garden. Originally in the 1800's used for cut flower production to bring money into the gardens to pay for the maintenance. This has been fenced to protect from the wallabies that were a problem. Heritage fencing, as the gardens is heritage listed. Cut flowers are normally annuals and the maintenance requirements high so we are modifying it now to include tropical cut flowers including Heliconias. An Exotic Garden is being developed to feature those wonderful flowering plants from elsewhere in the world.
The Orchid House. Cairns Botanic Gardens donated many exotic orchids, and we received funding from Jason Obrien MP and the Cooktown Local News for many Cooktown Orchids, the State Floral Emblem. These generally flower early in the year and are finished by end of May. Recently there has been a "Cookie" flowering any time, so you may be fortunate to see one of these whenever you visit. There are many exotic orchids also.
The Desert Garden, succulents and cacti. The tall flowering spikes can be taller than most trees!
Timber Trees Section, including Red Cedar (Toona ciliata) and the Kauri Pine (Agathis robusta), trees that were targeted for logging in the past, and Kwila (Insia bejuga), whose timber is used for outdoor furniture and boats.
The Wetlands, Mangroves (especially those painted by Vera Scarth-Johnson) and other wetlands plants including the Nypa Palm, that grows in the rivers.
A Syzygium Section, The edible Lilly Pillies or Satinashs, from the Myrtaceae family, with their colourful new growth and edible berries.
The Brachychiton Section on Diane Duncan Hill. The Kurrajongs and related plants. The hill was cleared of woody weed to expose the granite boulders and give space for these large trees. The Boab is almost there also and Bombax ceiba, the Red Silk Cotton Tree.
The Vera Scarth-Johnson Garden. Plants painted by Vera, close to the Natures PowerHouse and in the sand garden, as she favoured the flowers of the heathlands.
An Aroid garden featuring the Arum lillies, large Elephant Ears like the Taro, and Amorphophallus species, including the Titan Arum, is under development.
A Bush Foods garden, local indigenous food plants, including the Native Banana Musa Banksii and the Candlenut Tree, Aleurites mollucana, which contains so much oil in the large nuts that they could be lit as candles.
The new Rainforest Garden is a snapshot of Cedar Bay National Park which you drive through on the coast road to Cooktown from the Daintree. At the northern extremity of the Wet Tropics, this lush rainforest will highlight many species, including the Davidson Plum (Davidsonia pruriens) and the rainforest oaks, Black Palms Fan Palms and the climbing palm Wait-a-While, the Quandong (Elaeocarpus angustifolius) whose seed is a favourite of the Cassowary,
History of the Gardens
Gallop Botanic Reserve
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century it appears to have been Government policy to set aside Botanic Reserves in many newly established towns in Queensland, and these were provided for during the initial surveys of the town areas. Cooktown was one of the towns so endowed in 1878 with an area of 154 acres set aside. The Reserve extends from the rocks on the coast in Cherry Tree Bay, South along the coast to Alligator Creek in Finch Bay, up the creek to Hogg Street, Garden Street and a North, North-easterly line back to the rocks.
The Botanic Reserve was vested in the Cooktown Municipality, and the Government allocated an annual grant of £200 to assist in its development. The Council completed fencing of the Reserve early in 1885, enclosing the side nearest the town with palings.
In 1980, the Cook Shire Council resolved to name the Reserve the "Gallop Botanic Reserve" to commemorate the contributions of Mr R. D. Gallop and Mr G. D. Gallop, previous Administrators of the Shire.
Cooktown Botanic Gardens
In October 1885 the Council employed a botanist, Anthony Perieh, to lay out the nursery for the Gardens, which were to be established on the portion of the reserve closest to town. Then early in 1886 they contracted with John Welsh to dig over the Gardens, giving him two months to complete the job. In March 1886 young trees and shrubs were ordered from the Queensland Acclimatisation Society in Brisbane, and Mr Perieh was busy getting them established in the Gardens.
In 1890, C Watson and T Hassett were working as gardeners, and since there were now plants to look after, a well was sunk by Cross and Dufficy; and a pump, tank, and pipe reticulation installed. A second well was sunk at some later stage. The wells are still in use today. The water reticulation appliances have long been removed.
In 1892, a cottage was built on the Reserve and C Watson was installed as resident Curator of the Gardens. At this period the Gardens had been enclosed with a paling fence and were intensively developed with lawns, shrubs and garden beds, and named Queen's Park. Stone lined paths, stone pitched pools and stonework footbridges were built along a creek descending from the hills behind Cherry Tree Bay. In later years Mr Claussen, father to the late Lennie Claussen, filled the position of Gardens' Curator.
During the period of greatest activity a wide range of trees and shrubs of both decorative and economic value were planted in the Gardens. Shade and street trees in the Cook Monument Park, and in the main street, were part of the Botanic Gardens activities at this time.
Little further attention was given to the Gardens and they gradually fell into disrepair. In the mid 1970’s Mr SE Stephens, Hon. Curator of History, James Cook Museum, identified 18 plant species still surviving. Some restoration of the stone-pitched pools was undertaken in the early 1980’s. By 1990, 35 plant species had been identified as surviving species.
In 1984, Council commenced reconstruction of the Gardens with the assistance of Commonwealth Employment Funding. The original Gardens area has been cleared, stonework rebuilt and trees removed. A walking track has been cleared to Finch Bay along the old dray track. A walking track continues from this track to Cherry Tree Bay.
The Visitor Information Centre, Natures PowerHouse, is located in the gardens and has a verandah cafe where you can enjoy delicious food in the ambience of the gardens, the Wildlife of Cape York, a Qld Museum exhibit, a bookshop and the Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery. If you are into nature or art or simply need information on Cape York this is the place to visit!